Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reality Check

Gentlemen (and Ladies), Muddle up your Metaphors.  I’m in a mood to pick some nits, and slaughter sacred cows.
Call me old-fashioned, but I find that I long for the days of Walter Cronkite, and television news outlets that, not to put to fine a point on it, report the news.  They didn’t feed you teasers for it, they didn’t set out to create it, and the reporters, a term I use more as a metaphor for egotistical brain dead, self absorbed talking heads, well, they reported the news. 
When I watch the local CBS outlet, I feel like I want to puke.  The pet meteorologist taking credit for the weather.  The cutesy banter between the ‘talent’ (another of those metaphorical pseudonyms meaning pretty much nothing whatsoever).  News ‘professionals’ (another one of those words) who can’t pronounce February properly, try to ad-lib their way through a report probably because he or she has only a third grade reading education, and therefore can’t decipher the strange runes on the teleprompter anyway, and who actually believe that his or her report is more tenable because it’s being broadcast ‘live on location’ in the middle of the night, hours after the actual event on which he or she is reporting has folded up shop and gone home.
I think it’s a CBS thing.  I’ve lived in half a dozen cities with CBS affiliates, and the 6:00 and 11:00 news is the exact same cookie cutter template in every single one of them.  The only thing that is different is the face reading the script and the names are changed to protect the idiots.  I think they even tell the same bad jokes at the same time, on the same nights, adjusted for local color.
Our station has recently added a loud mouthed marginally literate redneck who goes by the radio name of Bubba the Love Sponge to provide something similar to, but not exactly like a news commentary segment. 
It was bad enough back in Michigan when their version of this guy was a former college jock who wasn’t good enough to turn pro in anything – including broadcasting – who tried to look serious, sound intelligent, talk and smile all at the same time.  He was so bad they scrolled the word COMMENTARY across the screen so you would know it was just him being ignorant, and not intended to simulate actual thought or intelligence.  He actually tried to ride local boy done good, Magic Johnson’s coattails to a network sportscasting job.  The CBS affiliate eventually traded him to the NBC affiliate for twelve cents, a roll of Lifesavers,  and a fourth round draft pick.  The NBC affiliate made him the news director.  NBC is still#2 in a market of 2 back there.  CBS got the best of the deal.
What really has my knickers in a twist right now is the habit of the local affiliate of giving you news teasers on Friday night and all the rest of the weekend about something that sounds terribly important, and then telling you to be sure to tune in on Monday at 11:00 for details.
Case in point.  This past weekend we were teased all weekend about locally bottled water that could present a serious and widespread health hazard.  Tune in Monday.  This is their idea of cutting edge investigative reporting.
Here’s the bee in my bonnet.  If there really IS a health concern, isn’t withholding that information while you troll for viewers criminal negligence?  And if there is NOT a  health hazard, and this is simply a ploy to gain viewers, isn’t this, then, fraudulent advertising?
Between stuff like this and the Love Sponge waxing cerebrally challenged with his entire four word vocabulary, three of which are of the four letter variety, I think it’s time to find another news outlet, except that I rather suspect the reality of it is that ABC, NBC and FOX are exactly the same, just not as pretty.
Meanwhile back at the ranch.
Florida’s new Governor has rejected federal (the worthless paper stuff they print by the ream in Washington) money to build high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando to Miami.  It is backed by enough private money to make it feasible, but still the Governor says ‘give the two billion dollars to someone else.  Florida and its almost 12% unemployment don’t need it.”
Locals call it the  Mickey Mouse/Hogsworth Express.
I actually agree with the Governor, but not for his reasons.  I think dedicated, paved bike paths and light rail from 50 miles north of Tampa, 50 miles East of Tampa and 50 miles South of Tampa servicing the downtown Tampa-St. Petersburg area makes a lot more sense.  The once or twice a year staycationers and vacationers that would use high speed rail are far outnumbered by the car driving Monday through Friday nine-to-fivers who would gladly trade in their daily gas guzzling SUV transit to let their conductor do the driving.
Tonight – while I was writing this – my newsflash RSS feed informed me that yet another cyclist was struck down and killed on the streets of Tampa/St. Petersburg.  Not many weeks go by without that headline.  Adult, responsible, cyclists injured or killed because the state that’s flat as a pancake doesn’t have bike paths.  I lived a year in the Netherlands.  Very efficient.  Trains, buses, bikes, walking, and automobiles.  Most Dutch students and workers ride their bike or walk to a bus stop or train stop, lock their bike, ride the bus or train to school or work, and then reverse the trip at the end of the day.  If you want, you can ride a bicycle from almost anywhere to almost anywhere in the nation on a paved, two lane, dedicated bike path, or some version of the above combination.
I guess the Dutch, in addition to less obese than we are, making better cheese, chocolate, and beer than we do, are a lot smarter than we are when it comes to transportation.  I can’t imagine the leader of the province of North Holland, where I lived, turning down two billion Euros from the Dutch Government for local transportation issues.
Happy Trails!
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